Keeping a therapy diary

Life happens to you in the time between your therapy sessions. One hour a week with your therapist leaves 167 hours where you are out in the world, living your life. If therapy is going well for you, and you're getting to know yourself as a result, there may be times where you feel different, more awake to yourself and how you feel. This can be a confusing time, filled with ups, downs and revelations.

The things you discussed in therapy often play themselves out as your days pass. You may be experimenting with new ways of being 'you'; perhaps you're asserting yourself more, or saying 'no' when you need to. You may be more attuned to your needs and reactions. Moods, good and bad, may be more intense.

The things that happen between your therapy meetings can be useful to bring back to the therapy room to discuss with your counsellor. However, it's easy to forget these potentially important moments as your week drags you along. A great way of capturing them as they pass through you is to carry a small notebook and write them down while they're fresh. Give yourself a minute, note the date, time and location, and scribble down what's going on, what has your attention, and how you feel about it. Here's an example:

"I told Mike that I won't be going to his mum's this weekend. That's the first time I've had the guts to say no without having to explain myself or search around for phoney excuses. Saying no was scary, but somehow exciting at the same time. It feels like things are changing in me. What the hell have I set in motion? I feel strong today!".

Try to use the words that spring from inside of you, and don't censor what you write. The voice in your head may try to convince you that you're being stupid, that it's a silly practice. Scratch away regardless.

You can add sketches to your notes, if you like, and you can use code words for people and places that only you know the meaning of. Your notebook is yours, and it will develop its own, organic character. You'll spill tea on it, cross out mistakes, mess up, and it will get dog-eared and worn. This is how it should be. There are no rules. You can't get it wrong.

Over the weeks you'll build quite a collection of the feelings and observations that you've caught on the page. You can reflect on them in your quiet times, adding to them whenever you feel like it. You can then choose whether or not to take them to therapy with you.

If it feels weird stopping to write things down in your little book, you can use the notes application on your phone instead, however handwritten is best if you can manage it. Then, whenever you open your book to re-read your notes, your unique script and squiggles will bring those moments back to your mind more readily, as if your soul had bled black ink on the page. Typed words don't have this power.

As time goes by you may wish to join the throngs of people who make keeping a diary an important part of their life. Many people report that sitting down regularly and documenting their life on paper has a cleansing effect, and it helps them put their experiences in perspective.

Give this diary idea a try; see if it serves you. It is a powerful practice, and even if you never make use of your notes in meetings with your therapist, they could still prove valuable to you as a record of your journey back to yourself.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Stevenage, Hertfordshire, SG1
Written by Paul Cossey, (Dip. Couns) MBACP
Stevenage, Hertfordshire, SG1

Paul Cossey is a counsellor/psychotherapist working in private practice. He helps clients work with the obstacles that block their path to the good life. His passions include writing and the practice of presence.

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